Theresa Yvonne Canales was born on Oct. 17, 1971, in Ft. Cavazos, Tx, formerly known as Fort Hood, to Margarito and Esperanza Martinez Canales, the fourth of their six children. An Army brat, Theresa’s childhood and elementary school years were spent traveling in Europe. Those experiences instilled in her a passion and curiosity for learning about different cultures which deepened throughout her life. She wouldn’t have time to learn all that she wanted to know-which was everything-but she filled her time learning all she wanted to know.
The world would always be her classroom and she would always be an enthusiastic teacher and insatiable student.
At Ellison High School in Killeen, Tx. from where she graduated in 1989, Teresa was a popular cheerleader and obo player. She enrolled in Incarnate Word College (now the University of the Incarnate Word) with the intent of becoming a nun. She changed her mind on that career path but still wanted to be an educator, graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Texas Certification for Secondary English & Writing Education (Life).
Theresa’s work in community engagement and political activism began as an undergraduate at Incarnate Word. Though never the nun she’d once envisioned herself, Teresa’s live and work was one of service, of living out her faith to do good for others. Driving her work was her belief that people should do better by one another and take care of each other. Education, community service, and politics were the avenues she used to channel this passion. Most important to her were children, their health, safety, education, and development. If they were to grow into compassionate and well-informed adults, they needed all the education she and other teachers could give.
Her teaching stints included being a Reading/Language Arts Teacher and Language School Teacher for District-wide Middle School Programs in the Edgewood Independent School District and All Level ESL & 6th Grade Classroom English Teacher at Brooks Academy of Science & Engineering (K-12). But Teresa knew she could increase her impact on her students by having an impact on the policies which would shape their lives and she knew her way around committee rooms as well as classrooms.
During the Texas House of Representatives 75th Legislative Session in 1997, she worked for State Representative Irma Rangel who chaired the Texas Committee on Higher Education. Teresa was that committee’s clerk who was responsible for organizing and disseminating information to committee members. She also researched bills and drafted analyses, speaking points and correspondence of behalf of the committee chair. Among the local elected officials who Theresa worked with in some capacity was Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, Mayor Ed Garza, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, County Commissioner Tommy Calvert Jr., City Councilwomen Rebecca and Phyllis Viagran and Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Upon learning of her death, Nirenberg said, “She was an incredible person, so generous with her knowledge. I think about her often because she was one of our small circles who advised me on how to run for office. She taught me how to block walk. May she rest in peace.”
Her extensive community service included but wasn’t limited to being a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run of Bexar County; kitchen volunteer at Haven for Hope and St. Vincent de Paul; former board member for Planned Parenthood Government Affairs Council; Volunteer Adult ESL/Citizenship Teacher at the Valasquez Literacy & Leadership Development Center (City of San Antonio.) There wasn’t much which Theresa wasn’t interested in or couldn’t do. She not only loved cooking, gardening, calligraphy, astronomy, botany, religious practices of various cultures, science, art, literature, music, Shakespeare, and history but could speak knowledgably on these. She was a talented cook, writer, musician, artist and she developed websites and designed, coded, and developed databases.
But Theresa’s greatest gifts was her zest for live and endless capacity for love. This beautiful and petite smiling force of nature was a source of light, good cheer, and strength for all who knew and loved her. And there are many.
A few years ago, her friend, world-famous poet Naomi Shihab Nye, immortalized Theresa (who sometimes dropped the ‘h’ from her name) in a poem, “You Are Your Own State Department”
“When your country does not feel cozy, what do you do?
Teresa walks more now, to feel closer to her
ground. If destination within two miles, she must
hike or take the bus. Carries apples,
extra bottles of chilled water to give away.”
But at the center of her life was her love for children. She was a mother to all the children in her life and had a special relationship with each of her nieces and nephews.
Teresa passed away on May 25. At the time of her death, she was the Outreach Coordinator for St. Mary’s University. She was preceded in death by her mother Esperanza Martinez Canales.
She is survived by her father Margarito Canales and stepmother Mary Canales, sisters Laura Morales (Jose Morales), Graciela Canales (Andrés Luna) and brothers Herman Canales (Megen Canales), Christopher Canales, and Adam Canales (Sandra Canales). Her nieces and nephews Christina Trentzsch, Bobby Canales, Magdalena Canales, Emily Canales, Marcos Canales, Andrés Canales, Clarissa Canales and Adrián Canales; great-nephew and great-niece Julian and Araceli Herrera and so many other family members and loved ones.
A visititation will be held Sunday, June 4, 2023, from 5:00pm - 7:00pm at Seydler - Hill Funeral Home, 906 St. Paul St. Gonzales, Texas 78629, with a rosary following at 7:00pm. A Mass of The Resurrection will be held Monday, June 5, 2023, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gonzales, Texas at 10:00am. Interment will follow at St. James Catholic Cemetery in Gonzales, Texas.
A memorial service in San Antonio will be held at a later date.
All services are under the care and direction of Seydler - Hill Funeral Home.